Some of us might be addicted to one thing or the other, or a few things. We all of have bad habits we would like to change. We have to be frank here, the majority of people who try to give up addictions will fail, most just continue again after a couple of days of quitting. It often takes repeated attempts before an individual is finally able to break free of addiction, and some people never get to this point.
First we have to understand the difference between ‘Bad habits‘ and ‘Addictions‘.
A bad habit is a negative behavior pattern. Common examples include procrastination, overspending, nail biting, excessive consumption of alcohol etc.
While an addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance(e.g alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity(e.g gambling, sex, shopping, video games, social media) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.
Some addictions may not necessarily emanate from bad habits, like addiction to social media or video games. Once these activities start to interfere with our essential daily activities they become addictions.
A key factor in distinguishing between a ‘Bad habit‘ from ‘Addiction‘ is willpower. If a person still seems to have control over the behavior then it’s just a habit. But when the habit is not tackled early, it may become more severe/established as an addiction.
So why do we still do them?
Some bad habits are cultivated/acquired due to peer pressure/friends. If the company you keep is what is pushing you to engage in certain bad habits you want to drop, then you have to consider staying away from them when they engage in those activities to avoid the temptation or consider getting new friends. Don’t let yourself be influenced negatively by supposed friends.
How do I know if I’m addicted to something?
To determine whether you have an addiction isn’t completely straightforward. And admitting it isn’t easy. Largely because of the shame and stigma associated with addiction. Most addicts may not even be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems to themselves and others. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards recovery.
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might have a problem with addiction:
1. You feel angry or offended if you are asked to stop using the substance or engaging in the activity.
2. You cannot stop using the substance or engaging in the activity despite your efforts to leave them behind.
3. You continue to use the substance or engage in the activity despite its negative consequences such as loss of valuable time, wastage of money, health challenges etc.
- Breaking away from your addiction
1. Set a goal to quit:
To beat your addiction, you need to set a goal to quit. Start by defining your reasons for quitting, write down a list of how the use of that substance or that activity is affecting your life negatively and why you want to stop. If you give you mind a reason to stop, your body will follow, this a called ‘willpower’.
2. Keep yourself busy:
Staying idle they say is ‘the devils workshop’. When you are idle, boredom sets in soon after and you start thinking of a lot of things to use to pass the time, which also opens a door for your addiction to come into your mind.
Fill your life with engaging activities. Try out different sports, try out swimming and have good clean fun, learn how to draw, find a new hobby or skill – learning something that takes a while to master can refocus your brain on achieving that planned goal and effectively keeps you thoughts away from your addiction.
3. Start an improvement routine:
One good way to tackle addictions to start an improvement routine. Try as hard as possible not to give in to the habit. First aim for 7 days, then 14 days and so on.
If your willpower disappoints you and you somehow repeat that habit, don’t feel bad or give up, continue you routine until you reach you set number of days. This method is proven to have a high success rate. Victory over addiction should be viewed as a marathon not a sprint.
4. Reward yourself:
You can reward yourself with something you love after you have completed your improvement routine e.g a plate of ice cream or a piece of cake. Or you can buy an item you really want like a bracelet and give to a friend to keep for you, and only to give it back after you have completed your routine(e.g 21 days without cigarettes).
It will motivate you to keep to your routine.
Don’t think you can’t continue your improvement routine and go without that substance or engaging in that activity forever. Instead think about completing your set routine.
5. Find out your addiction triggers:
You have to know yourself more to understand what really makes you want to use the substance or engage in that activity. Find out what triggers your addiction.
Do you feel that way when you are angry, anxious or bored? Many bad habits come about as a means of dealing with situations that cause stress or boredom.
Recognizing your bad habits is crucial to overcoming them, so it is important to determine the situation or emotional context that triggers these habits.
6. Look for guidance:
If you are really having trouble controlling you addiction, it is advisable to seek for guidance. Tell someone you trust about your challenge. This may not work for everyone but it does help and shouldn’t be dismissed.
You could seek help from your Friends, your doctor or your spiritual leader(Bishop, Imam etc). But have in mind that they are human too and are susceptible to error. If you ask someone for help with your challenge and he or she suggests a remedy you find uncomfortable, please seek for a second opinion.
7. Don’t test your willpower:
A scripture in the bible says,’Cultivate and be where the spirit of The Lord is. Make sure that includes your own home or apartment, dictating the art, music and literature you keep there’.
We can interpret this as, you can’t expect to break away from a masturbation addiction for example, when you have pictures of nude women hanging on your wall in your room, or nude videos in your phone. If you have an alcohol challenge and your friends invite you over to a place where there would probably be a lot of alcohol, remember that you can still have a good time there without alcohol, but if you know the temptation would be too great, it is best to stay away.
Don’t put yourself in situations where you are likely to slip up.
If you don’t trust your willpower enough to resist purchasable addictions like cigarettes or alcohol, try simple methods like not carrying excess money on you, so even when you want to, you won’t be able to purchase any of them.
8. Develop a new coping mechanism:
Most of the time, bad habits are a way of coping/dealing with stress and boredom, everything from biting your nails to smoking marihuana to drinking every weekend to wasting time on social media are simple methods we have cultivated to respond to stress and boredom.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can teach yourself new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom which you can substitute in place of your bad habits. Trying to stop smoking when you are stressed out would be pointless if you don’t find a new method of coping with stress to replace it. If not you would just go back to smoking again.
You could try listening to music when you are stressed out or clean around the house when you are bored. That could be a good start to improvement.
- Final Thoughts
1. Whenever that feeling comes up, instead of getting up from your bed/chair and giving in to it, try breathing exercises, breathe in and out, relax yourself and try to think of something else.
2. When the urge is very intense, take a cold shower. It is not only shown to calm the mind but many other benefits to overall health and energy.
3. When dealing with internet addiction, set time limits. If you decide that you have one hour per day to spend using the internet, stick to that.
4. You could find someone else who wants to break the same habit as you, and work towards quitting together. Keeping each other accountable.
5. Increased sexual feelings are normal at a young age and pornography might be a safer outlet for releasing those feelings. But pornography can give you the wrong ideas about sex.
Porn addiction is real. Though you are not ingesting or injecting anything into your body, chronic porn viewing does have a physical effect. Time spent ingesting porn is mind numbing and leaves you exhausted. It is important not to let it control your life.
6. There may be times where your willpower may not be enough and it fails you. By admitting that you need Gods help, you open a new door for his intervention in your life. Prayers work, all you need to do ask.